What’s the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline? Brain health and hearing loss have a link which medical science is beginning to comprehend. It was found that even mild neglected hearing loss raises your risk of developing dementia.
Experts think that there may be a pathological link between these two seemingly unrelated health problems. So, how does hearing loss put you in danger of dementia and how can a hearing test help combat it?
What is dementia?
Dementia is a condition that diminishes memory ability, thinking, and socialization skills, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Individuals tend to think of Alzheimer’s disease when they hear dementia most likely because it is a prevalent form. About five million people in the US are affected by this progressive form of dementia. Today, medical science has a complete understanding of how ear health increases the risk of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease.
How hearing works
When it comes to good hearing, every part of the intricate ear mechanism matters. As waves of sound vibration move towards the inner ear, they’re amplified. Inside the labyrinth of the inner ear, little hair cells shake in response to the sound waves to transmit electrical impulses that the brain translates.
Over time, many people develop a progressive decline in their ability to hear because of years of damage to these fragile hair cells. The result is a decrease in the electrical signals to the brain that makes it difficult to comprehend sound.
This progressive hearing loss is sometimes regarded as a normal and inconsequential part of the aging process, but research indicates that’s not accurate. Whether the impulses are unclear and garbled, the brain will try to decode them anyway. That effort puts strain on the organ, making the person struggling to hear more vulnerable to developing dementia.
Loss of hearing is a risk factor for numerous diseases that lead to:
- Reduction in alertness
- Impaired memory
- Weak overall health
- Inability to master new tasks
The odds of developing cognitive decline can increase based on the degree of your hearing loss, also. An individual with only mild hearing loss has double the risk. More significant hearing loss means three times the risk and a person with extreme, neglected loss of hearing has up to five times the risk of developing cognitive decline. A study conducted by Johns Hopkins University watched the cognitive skills of over 2,000 older adults over a six-year period. They discovered that hearing loss significant enough to hinder conversation was 24 percent more likely to result in memory and cognitive issues.
Why a hearing assessment matters
Hearing loss impacts the overall health and that would most likely surprise many individuals. For most people, the decline is gradual so they don’t always realize there is a problem. As hearing declines, the human brain adapts gradually so it makes it less noticeable.
Scheduling routine thorough exams gives you and your hearing specialist the ability to properly assess hearing health and track any decline as it takes place.
Using hearing aids to decrease the danger
Scientists currently believe that the relationship between cognitive decline and hearing loss has a lot to do with the brain stress that hearing loss causes. Based on that one fact, you may conclude that hearing aids reduce that risk. A hearing assistance device amplifies sound while filtering out background noise that disrupts your hearing and alleviates the strain on your brain. With a hearing aid, the brain will not work as hard to understand the sounds it’s receiving.
People who have normal hearing can still possibly get dementia. What science thinks is that hearing loss speeds up the decline in the brain, increasing the chances of cognitive problems. The key to reducing that risk is routine hearing exams to diagnose and treat gradual hearing loss before it can have an impact on brain health.
If you’re concerned that you might be dealing with hearing loss, contact us today to schedule your hearing evaluation.